Buckingham and McVie at Wolf Trap

IMG_4127Of the many incarnations of Fleetwood Mac since 1967, the most popular by far is the California version ushered in by the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Probably because they sold 40 million copies of their self-titled album in 1975, and because people loved Stevie. It was Buckingham, though, who brought a new songwriting touch and production texture.

By the time those two joined, Christine McVie had been in the band five years and was already a growing presence with her own distinctive pop turns.

Since both Buckingham and McVie were such forces for new music for Fleetwood Mac all these years later, you’d think they’d just save any new song ideas for perhaps a group album to accompany a supposed Mac farewell tour next year (certainly no new recordings were released in conjunction with their last 2014 tour).

But the two released their “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” album this month under their own names and are backing it with a tour that made its fourth stop Monday before a very forgiving audience at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va.

The two — Buckingham, 67, looking very much the same as always; and McVie, elegant and super slim at 73 — entered the stage hand in hand, as if they were nearing a cliff edge from which they’d jump.

And things started shakily enough, with Buckingham relying on his fussily played acoustic on much slower renditions of familiar songs, from the opening ‘Trouble” to his fingerpicking showcase “Never Going Back Again.” McVie for her part there did “Wish You Were Here” from the 1982 Fleetwood Mac “Mirage.” Both had a little trouble finding the right key to start songs and were never as smooth vocally as they had been on record.

Joined by a quartet of pros behind them that included many musicians who have toured with Buckingham before — Frederico Pol, guitarist Neil Heywood, Brett Tuggle as well we an over-amplified drummer Jimmy Paxson — they locked into a smoother, more familiar, at times overly-produced sound.

That helped with the group harmonies, finally unleashed mid-show on mid-career Mac tunes like “Hold Me” and “Little Lies,” but those may have been reliant on those sped-up loops they’d use in the studio.

Especially alongside the familiar tunes, the new songs which dominated the show — they played eight of its 10 tracks — seemed lacking. Super simple with obvious rhymes (“I don’t want to bring you down / I never meant to give you a frown”), you’d almost think they were children’s songs. And yet, a few of them don’t even sound that finished — they’re sketches of songs for a children’s album.

But then, again, so was “Tusk,” the album title song that, we realize when we hear it again is only half finished, and clouded in its overdone arrangement. Instead of a full marching band on tour, though, they had a synth, and McVie on an inaudible accordion.

As open as fans at Wolf Trap seemed to be ft hear the new material, they fairly screamed when they heard Mac hits in their midst. The main set closed with “You Make Loving Fun,” “I’m So Afraid” and “Go Your Own Way.”

Not that they exhausted all Mac possibilities. From “Rumors” alone, McVie skipped “Don’t Stop,” now seemingly locked in the political past; “Oh Daddy” and her lovely benediction “Songbird.”

She did do “Everywhere” from the now 30-year old “Tango in the Night” in the encore. But when Buckingham said they’d follow it with two more from the new album, he might as well have been saying: If you want to get a good head start to the parking lot, now’s a good time.

The Wallflowers were a solid addition to the tour, happy to be playing things from their own 4 million seller, “Bringing Down the Horse” — now 21 years ago — and loose enough to add a cover song just for they heck of it. They had been doing the Box Tops’ “The Letter” on this tour, but they shifted to Richard & Linda Thompson’s tasty “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.”

That might have been because they were seeing bright lights; as opening act playing so near the solstice, they were staring down a sunset that both gave the stage unusual lighting but required Jakob Dylan and crew to really need their shades.

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The set list for Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie Monday was: 

  • “Trouble”
  • “Never Going Back Again”
  • “Wish You Were Here”
  • “Shut Us Down”
  • “Sleeping Around the Corner”
  • “Feel About You”
  • “In My World”
  • “Too Far Gone”
  • “Hold Me”
  • “Little Lies”
  • “Tusk”
  • “Love is Here to Stay”
  • “Red Sun”
  • “You Make Loving Fun”
  • “I’m So Afraid”
  • “Go Your Own Way”
  • “Everywhere”
  • “Lay Down for Free”
  • “Game of Pretend”

 

The Wallflowers set Monday was: 

  • “Three Marlenas”
  • “How Good It Can Get”
  • “Sleepwalker”
  • “6th Avenue Heartache”
  • “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”
  • “I’ve Been Delivered”
  • “Misfits and Lovers”
  • “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls”
  • “Love is a Country”
  • “One Headlight
  • “The Difference”

 

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